Celebrating World Soil Day and the Importance of Soil Biodiversity

A field on Sarah Green's Organics farm

 

Did you know that one of the earth’s most precious resources is often overlooked, even though it’s right under our noses (and feet!)? 

December 5th is World Soil Day - the perfect opportunity to talk about the crucial role soil plays in everything from food production to clean water and preventing climate change.

A third of the world’s soil is moderately to highly degraded as the result of pollution, erosion, nutrient depletion, and other factors. UN-funded projects in developing countries aim to stop desertification, increase biodiversity and empower communities around the world to use more sustainable farming methods, but there are also things we can do to keep it healthy, both as individuals and as part of our local community.

 

Why Soil is Important?

 

  • 95% of our food is produced on soil (both directly and indirectly)
     
  • Apart from food, up to 90% of people in developing countries rely on naturally grown products as a source of medicine, shelter, energy, and livelihood.
     
  • The health of the soil is connected to our own health, because it affects the water we drink, the air we breath and the health of all living organisms on the planet.
     
  • Soil plays a key role in the carbon cycle. When managed sustainably, it can decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. When unsustainable agricultural practices are used, however, soil carbon can be released into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.
     
  • Healthy soil is crucial to the provision of a clean water supply in most parts of the world. Water is stored and filtered ins oil, where pollutants are prevented from ending up in groundwater. Soil with high organic matter content can store a large amount of water, which is not only useful during droughts, but also when heavy rainfall to prevent flooding.
     
  • Soil contains 25% of our planet’s biodiversity and is its most densely packed ecosystem. Soil organisms play a crucial role in nutrient cycling. There are 15 nutrients essential to plant growth and a shortage of just one of them is enough to hurt crop yields.
     
  • Soil is a non-renewable, finite resource: it takes up to 1000 years to form one centimetre of soil, which means soil degradation cannot be recovered within a human lifespan.  In most developing countries, there is little scope for expanding arable land: there is no suitable land available. By 2050, however, agricultural production will need to increase by at least 60% globally and almost 100% in some developing countries to meet demand.
     
  • Maintaining healthy soil, conserving resources, and using sustainable agricultural practices can significantly increase crop yields, meaning more food can be produced on the same amount of land.

 

Organic farming in action

Crop Drop’s commitment to protecting soil biodiversity

As food producers and suppliers, our work is tied to land and soil. We understand the importance of protecting soil biodiversity and are committed to making the most ethical, sustainable choices both while buying and supplying produce and in the way our business is run.

Supporting organic food producers

We only sell produce from organic growers certified by the Soil Association, as well as smaller urban growers who follow the same practices but are working towards their certification. All our growers follow best practices when it comes to maintaining soil health. You can learn more about our sourcing policy here.

Reducing use of plastic and single use items to a minimum

We’ve reduced plastic packaging to a minimum, reuse everything we can (including some of the vegetable bags we get from our growers!) and avoid using disposable cups and other single use items while running the business. Our organic veg box scheme uses eco-friendly vegetable bags that are donated to us by a print house – misprints or B-grade goods rejected by clients that would otherwise end up in the bin but can now be reused for months and even years.  

Recycling and composting

We recycle everything we can and donate surplus produce to prevent food waste. Green waste goes straight into our compost heap to provide important nutrients for growing more veg.

Working in harmony with the soil

What we can do to support soil health as individuals

Here are some simple, everyday actions we as individuals can take to keep our soil healthy.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Up to a third of plastic waste ends up in the ground. Avoiding single use plastic products, choosing products with eco-friendly packaging and reusing your own bags and containers can make a real difference when it comes to soil health, as can recycling.

Donating unwanted goods, buying second-hand items and otherwise reducing consumption of new goods can also have a beneficial effect, as up to 1/5 of raw materials are wasted when producing new products. This is especially important around this time of year, when most people are shopping for gifts. Normalising second-hand gifting is one thing we can do to reduce overall waste.

Keep pollutants out of the soil (and our food)

Always dispose of hazardous waste responsibly to keep pollutants from contaminating the ground. This includes batteries and medications, but also electronic waste, which is one of the major causes of soil pollution. Thinking twice before buying a new phone, tablet or other electronic device is another way of reducing the amount of such waste that ends up in soil.

When choosing household, gardening, and personal care products, choose eco-friendly products, free of harmful chemicals.

Compost your organic waste

Let your food scraps and other organic waste nourish the land, instead of rotting away in a landfill! In Haringey this is easy enough to do, as both kitchen and green waste can be collected and composted.

Support farmers who follow sustainable agricultural practices

The UN’s Food & Agricultural Organization specifically named organic farming as one of several sustainable agricultural approaches that support soil biodiversity and prevent soil degradation. By sourcing your food from producers who respect the land and protect the soil, you can be sure your food is produced without damaging one of the world’s most precious resources.

 

You can learn more about World Soil Day, soil biodiversity and issues affecting soil worldwide by visiting the official World Soil Day page on the FAO site.

Blog categories: 
Community & Global Issues